I have, however, advisedly spoken of the Church in its external form. Its complex character is partly due to the fact that we cannot arrive at its inner condition by simple deduction from its outer. It is not sufficient to observe, although the observation is correct, that this Church is part of the history of Greek religion. It exercises influences which from this point of view are not easily intelligible. We cannot form a correct estimate of it unless we dwell more closely on the factors which lend it its character.
The first factor which we encounter is tradition, and the observance of it. The sacred and the divine do not exist in free action—we shall see later to what reservations this statement is subject—but are put, as it were, into a storehouse, in the form of an immense capital. The capital is to provide for all demands, and to be coined in the precise way in which the Fathers coined it. Here, it is true, we have an idea which can be traced to something already existing in the primitive age. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” But what became of this practice and this obligation? Firstly, everything was designated “apostolic” which was deposited in this Church in the course of the succeeding centuries; or, rather, what the Church considered necessary to possess in order to suit the historical position in which it was placed, it called apostolic, because it fancied that otherwise it could not exist, and what is necessary for the Church’s existence must be simply apostolic. Secondly, it has been established as an irrefragable fact that the “continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine “applies, first and foremost, to the punctilious observance of every direction as to ritual: the sacred element is bound up with text and form. Both are conceived in a thoroughly antique way. That the divine is, so to speak, stored up as though it were an actual commodity, and that the supreme demand which the Deity makes is the punctilious observance of a ritual, were ideas that in antiquity were perfectly familiar and admitted of no doubt. Tradition and ceremony are the conditions under which the Holy alone existed and was accessible. Obedience, respect, reverence, were the most important religious feelings. Whilst they are doubtless inalienable features of religion, it is only as accompaniments of an active feeling quite different in its character that they possess any value, and that further presumes that the object to which they are directed is a worthy one. Traditionalism and the ritualism so closely connected with it are prominent. characteristics of the Greek Church, but this is just what shows how far it has departed from the Gospel.